Did you know that world famous sports network ESPN has a fuller name? The acronym originally stood for “The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.”
ESPN, of course, is known for its sports coverage. So when competitive gaming coverage bleeds into Sunday evening sports, sports fans take notice. Some even get pretty vocal about it.
Take ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd, for instance. He’s taking a firm stand against eSports coverage on a network that’s named “The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network” — a network that also airs competitive Poker, and eating competitions.
This past Sunday, April 26, ESPN 2 broadcast the finals of a series called “Heroes of the Dorm.” In it, two college eSports teams competed for video game glory, and also full tuition rides. Despite those facts, Cowherd isn’t having it:
Here’s what’s going to get me off the air: if I’m ever forced to cover guys playing video games, I will retire and move to a rural fishing village and sell bait. You want me out, demand video game tournaments on ESPN, because that’s what appeared on ESPN 2 yesterday.
Before we dig through the rest of Cowherd’s statements, some context is required. Cowherd is a longtime pot-stirrer in the sports world, known as much for his fringe, borderline racist statements as much as he’s known for his ability to cover sports. He’s on Business Insider’s list of The 10 Worst Sportscasters on the Planet, as well as Deadspin’s “Worst Men in Sports” list.
Cowherd is a huckster in the purest sense — as we wrote in 2011, “Colin Cowherd is the loudest guy in the room, and he’s routinely the most uninformed person there too.”
Knowing that, it’s not surprising that he has open disdain for the eSports coverage — the hundreds of millions of people who love eSports are a prime target for his attention-grabbing tirade. Not to mention Cowherd’s primary audience on ESPN Radio is the perfect breeding ground for his argument to flourish.
In this tirade, Vowherd targeted ESPN2, which broadcast a live “Heroes of the Storm” match on April 26. More specifically, Cowherd targeted his employer and the fans of that night’s broadcast.
“Somebody lock the basement door at mum’s house and don’t let ’em out,” Cowherd shouts as video of the tournament plays over his voice. “I tolerated ‘Donkey Kong.’ OK? I’ll tell you what that was the equivalent of there…[unintelligible]…of me putting a gun in my mouth and having to listen to that.”
Bizarrely, Cowherd’s broadcast uses sound effects from classic video game “Pac-Man” and the “Revenge of the Nerds” movie franchise to illustrate his apparent frustration. More bizarrely, he closes his rant with a line about “how intense” the commentators of the eSports match are, though they sound indistinguishable from standard sports commentators. Here’s the match:
Except it’s not bizarre — it’s drumming up controversy for the sake of entertainment. As we put it in 2011:
People like Cowherd and Skip Bayless are paid to come up with simple, two-sided talking points that provoke a specific faction of viewers and/or listeners. These debates don’t have to have a relationship with reality, and the people arguing either side don’t have to believe what they’re saying.
And that’s exactly it: Cowherd may or may not actually feel this strongly about eSports, competitive gaming, or his employer “forcing” him to ever cover it. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it got people arguing, talking, and writing about what he said. Just look at Twitter’s reactions:
Colin Cowherd on ESPN is against having esports televised on the same network that airs a hot dog eating contest and a spelling bee
— Jordan Welch (@JWelchDrums) April 29, 2015
One of Colin Cowherd’s jabs at esports was “Look at how into they are!”Exactly… Isn’t that enough for him to understand the value of it?
— Bobby Simerson (@bobbysimerson) April 29, 2015
And then there’s Twitter reactions to the broadcast (not Cowherd’s response) from other ESPN employees. They skew far more positive, as seen here:
The full video of Cowherd’s response is below, captured by Sports Grid:
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